You may be wondering how does someone become a naturopathic doctor? What is their training? Are they licensed? And, how is the profession regulated?
To become a naturopathic doctor, you need to graduate from an accredited naturopathic institution. But, before that, you need to complete a 3- or 4-year undergraduate degree from a recognized university. In my case, I attended McGill University, located in Montreal, Quebec where I earned my Bachelors of Social Work degree in 4 years. Most naturopathic doctors have a science undergraduate degree but if you have a degree in something other than science you must complete basic university science prerequisite courses in order to be admitted into a naturopathic institution. This is what I did, I attended Trent University for one full year (September to August) where I completed courses in biology, chemistry, psychology, and physiology. From there I attended the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) located in Toronto for additional four years. That's a total of 9 years of post-secondary education!
While attending CCNM, first year naturopathic students complete basic science courses such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, health pyschology, research and ethics, embryology, and immunology; in addition to some introductory naturopathic courses including homeopathy, acupuncture, and clinical nutrition. In the two years following, students focus on more advanced medical courses such as microbiology, clinical medicine, physical and clinical diagnosis, pharmacology, men's and women's health, radiology and advanced imaging, emergency medicine, maternal and newborn care, and pediatrics. They also hone their skills in naturopathic treatments such as nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, manipulation, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, and psychological counselling. Students also learn about ethical practice and business. Finally, the last year of CCNM is a full year internship where students see patients at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic under the direct supervision of a licensed naturopathic doctor. Student interns can also see patients at the Brampton Naturopathic Teaching Clinic located within the Brampton Civic Hospital and numerous community health centres located in and around the city of Toronto.
Upon graduation, naturopathic students must complete the second part of the Naturopathic Physician Licensing Examinations (NPLEX). The first part of the NPLEX exam can be completed by students anytime after their 2nd year of naturopathic studies. The first part tests students on their knowledge of the basic sciences; it is a full day exam. The second and final NPLEX exam is a 3-day case-based test that covers topics of diagnosis, treatment methods (such as botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, physical medicine, health psychology, and research), and medical interventions. Naturopathic graduates may also be required to complete a provinical board examination, depending on the province they plan to practice in. In Ontario, graduates are required to complete board exams to evaluate their clinical compentency in acupuncture, manipulation, and physical examination. After the successful completion of NPLEX and provincial boards, naturopathic graduates are eligible for licensure.
In the province of Ontario, naturopathic doctors are regulated by the Ontario College of Naturopaths (CONO). This regulatory body assesses eligibility for licensure, develops the regulations, policies, by-laws, and necessary business operations that govern the profession. CONO ensures that naturopathic doctors meet their obligations under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA) and the Naturopathy Act, 2007.
For more information about naturopathic medicine or naturopathic doctors visit: www.cand.ca or call us at 905-683-1616.
Yours in health,
Dr. Kate Klein, ND